Google’s been secretly trialing a drove of 5G Internet-compatible drones out in New Mexico that have the potential to transmit gigabits of data every second – that’s 40 times more data than the world’s fastest wireless services.
Codenamed Skybender, the project aims to take advantage of high frequency millimetre waves – a specific region on the electromagnetic spectrum that can theoretically transmit data far more efficiently than the frequencies our phones and wireless Internet have well and truly clogged up.
In the electromagnetic spectrum, millimetre waves occupy the frequency spectrum from 30 GHz to 300 GHz, which is between microwaves (1 GHz to 30 GHz) and infrared (IR) waves, which makes them longer than infrared waves or x-rays, but shorter than radio waves or microwaves.
The problem with continuing to use wireless communication the way we have is that every kind of communication, whether it’s radio transmissions, television, phone, or satellite, occupies a specific range of wavelengths or frequencies, and providers are given their own ‘channel’ within these to prevent interference.
While millimetre waves are theoretically awesome, and exactly what we need to jettison the Internet into the future, they come with a rather large limitation – they have a much shorter range than mobile phone signals, which means they fade after travelling just a short distance.
According to The Guardian, Google’s Skybender tests at Spaceport America in New Mexico found that a broadcast at 28GHz would fade in around a tenth the distance of a 4G phone signal.
Google has permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to continue testing their drones in US airspace till July this year, at which point we’ll probably hear more about the success or failure of Skybender. Regardless of what happens though, we get the feeling that those millimetre waves aren’t going to be left vacant for much longer.